The Red Sox and Yankees will renew their storied rivalry Friday when the two teams clash for the first time in 2021.
The Sox and Yanks are set to square off at 7:05 p.m. ET, in MLB.TV’s Free Game of the Day, kicking off a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. It's also the first MLB Network Showcase game this month. (Blackout restrictions apply, although live audio still will be available through MLB.TV in local markets.)
While it’s always fun when Boston and New York get together, the temperature is usually turned up a few notches when both clubs are in contention, and that’s certainly the case this year. The two are currently looking up at the Rays in the American League East, but it’s a tight race. Throw in the Blue Jays, who are also above .500, and the AL East is shaping up to be a riveting fight to the finish.
The Yankees, meanwhile, continue to rely heavily on Aaron Judge's powerful bat and capable glove. The 6-foot-7 slugger has missed a lot of time since his spectacular 2017 rookie season, but he’s stayed healthy so far in ‘21, appearing in 54 of New York’s first 57 games. Few hitters can crush the ball like Judge, who owns MLB's second-highest hard-hit rate (percentage of batted balls with an exit velocity of 95+ mph) and has slugged six homers with an exit velocity of 110+ mph.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the matchup:
How they’re doing
Red Sox (33-23, 2nd in AL East)
Yankees (31-26, 3rd in AL East)
Coming off a last-place finish in 2020, the Red Sox raced to a 22-13 start over their first 35 games of ‘21 to grab hold of first place in the AL East, but they enter Friday's series opener against the Yankees with an 11-10 record in their previous 21 games. Boston still has the fifth-best runs-per-game average (4.93) in the Majors, however.
The Yankees have struggled on offense all year, averaging just 3.74 runs per game -- fifth worst in the big leagues. New York’s pitching staff has kept the club afloat, recording the AL’s best ERA (3.25).
Eovaldi returns to the Bronx to face his former team. The right-hander has a 3.86 ERA in 29 career appearances (27 starts) at Yankee Stadium, although he gave up eight runs over 5 1/3 innings in his most recent outing there -- Aug. 15 of last season. Eovaldi has been inconsistent in his past eight starts, allowing two earned runs or fewer in half of them and four or more in the other half.
King will get the ball for the Yankees, making his second start of the season. The righty has a 2.29 ERA in seven relief appearances, but he allowed four runs (two earned) over 2 1/3 innings against the Tigers on Sunday in his first start of the year.
The players to watch
Bogaerts entered Thursday's action mired in an 0-for-21 slump, but he snapped the skid with a 2-for-5 performance. The shortstop hit .321/.382/.556 in April and May and is one of three Red Sox who have at least 10 homers this season, along with Rafael Devers (14) and J.D. Martinez (12). The trio has hit 30 of its 36 homers in games the Red Sox won.
The Yankees’ offense has been carried by Judge, who posted a .300 average with 13 homers and a .951 OPS in the first two months of the season. New York has six players who have amassed at least 100 plate appearances and recorded a sub-.700 OPS this year, making Judge's strong performance all the more crucial.
Don’t forget him
The Red Sox and Yankees teamed up for a rare trade between the two rivals in January, as New York sent Adam Ottavino to Boston with Minor Leaguer Frank German and $850,000 for a player to be named later or cash considerations. Despite some wildness (6.65 BB/9), Ottavino has been a key part of the Boston bullpen, recording a 2.91 ERA in 21 2/3 innings. Ottavino’s presence could loom large against the Yankees’ righty-heavy lineup. The 35-year-old limited righty batters to an .087/.263/.109 slash line in the first two months of this season.
Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch should be an enticing target for Martinez, who has recorded more opposite-field homers (6) than any other hitter this season. Here’s a look at all of Martinez’s home runs in 2021, overlaid at Yankee Stadium.
Number of note
When these two teams have taken a lead into the ninth inning this season, it's typically been game over thanks to the stellar work of closers Aroldis Chapman and Matt Barnes. The two rank second and third, respectively, in expected batting average against, based on quality of contact and strikeouts.
Lowest xBA, 2021
Min. 50 batters faced (428 pitchers)
Jimmy Nelson (LAD): .116
Aroldis Chapman (NYY): .120
Matt Barnes (BOS): .133
Jacob deGrom (NYM): .147
Corbin Burnes (MIL): .148